Get a Grip, Nashville!

Nashville Home Inspection – What’s Wrong With This Picture?  10-19-12

Look at the picture below.  Do you know what’s missing?

missing handrail

HINT:  Try to get a grasp on things.

ANSWER:  It looks nice enough, doesn’t it?  New paint and all.  But let’s count the steps.  I count 5, when you include the last step up to porch.  So what is missing?  How about a “graspable handrail”?  A graspable handrail is recommended any time the number of step risers is 4 or more.  So you might say they have it in the 2×4 handrail on the left, right?  Not really.  There is a very specific definition of a “graspable handrail”.  In fact it is so detailed it is best to show you a picture.  Please see below.

The International Residential Code (IRC) rules are mostly in place now.  The handgrip portion of the graspable handrail shall not be less than 1 1/4  inches or more than 2 inches in cross sectional dimension, or the shape shall provide an equivalent gripping surface.  The handgrip shall have a smooth surface with no sharp corners.  Handrails projecting from the wall shall have a space of not less than 1 1/2 inches between the wall and the handrail.  The handrail should be continuous and should return to the wall or the rail at the ends.  So the basic idea of a graspable handrail is something you can wrap your fingers around.  That is why a 2×4 does not work.  Think about the very young and the elderly.  On any step system, but certainly on one with steep steps or with uneven step risers, they need a graspable handrail that is firmly mounted to help them up and down.

To comment or ask questions about this article please email

Thank you,

Richard Acree


Stair Step Dimensions

Nashville Home Inspections – Stair Step Dimensions

Staircases seem to always be a part of Nashville Tennessee Home Inspections completed by HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC.  In older homes staircases can present a problem when it comes to dimensions.  Look at the picture below.  Does this look OK?

HINT:  You are looking down the staircase leading to a basement in a house about 100 years old.

STEEP Basement Steps

The pic below is a closeup of the stairs while standing in front of the stairs in the basement.

Front View of Steps

ANSWER:  It is hard to know for sure without using a tape measure, but these stairs are very steep and therefore present a falling hazard.  Look at the pic below to see the measurement of the step rise.  Almost 9 inches!

Tall Step Rise

The pic below shows the step run, or horizontal measurement.  Less than 8″!

Short Step Run

Proper step rise and run dimensions are shown below in a drawing from Code Check.  Most municipalities use IRC numbers.  In this staircase, both dimensions are wrong.  If either measurement is inadequate the Client for the Home Inspection needs to know because this presents a safety hazard.  When both dimensions are wrong, this is a serious falling hazard.  So the answer is NO, this is not OK.

Stair Profile

Thank you,

Richard Acree

Comments in this blog posting are the copyrighted intellectual property of Richard Acree, President, HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC,  and are intended to educate and otherwise assist home owners, sellers and buyers, building owners, sellers and buyers, realtors, real estate investors, property managers, and lenders in the process of owning, buying or selling homes or commercial buildings.  HABITEC is a residential (home) and commercial building inspection company serving Middle Tennessee including Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Mt. Juliet, Hendersonville, Dickson, Belle Meade, Columbia, Spring Hill, Lebanon, Gallatin and more!  In addition to building inspections HABITEC offers Environmental Services for mold assessments, radon testing and water quality analysis.  Additional information about HABITEC can be found on our website at, or call 615-376-2753. 

Richard Acree is the author of  the HABITEC Home and Building Inspections blog at ActiveRain, WordPress, and Blogger, and Founder of the ActiveRain Group Tennessee Home and Building Inspectors.  All are welcome to join and comment on those blogs and group.   You can also follow HABITEC on Facebook and Richard on Linked.  Thank you!